Serrano language

Native to United States
Region Southern California
Ethnicity Serrano people
Extinct 2002, with the death of Dorothy Ramon
Language codes
ISO 639-3 ser
Glottolog serr1255[1]

The Serrano language is a language in the Serran branch of the Uto-Aztecan family spoken by the Serrano people of Southern California. The language is closely related to Tongva, Kitanemuk and Vanyume.[2]


According to Ethnologue, there was 1 speaker in 1994.[3] The last fully fluent speaker was Dorothy Ramon, who died in 2002.[4] The language is now considered extinct, however revitalization efforts have allowed the language to survive in some form.[5]

Traditionally referring to themselves as Yuhaviatam meaning "people of the pines," the Serrano people originally occupied the area near the Mojave River and San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California. In 1891 the United States established the San Manuel Reservation for the Serrano people where many of its last speakers lived. In 1967, Researcher Kenneth Cushman Hill noted that about 6 people still spoke the now dormant language.[6]

See also: Serrano People

Language revitalization

The language was at a time considered to be extinct but there are attempts at reviving it.[7] Both at the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, and Morongo Band of Mission Indians reservations[8] there are efforts not underway to teach the language and the history and culture of the Serrano people. Language teacher Pauline Murillo helped develop an interactive CD ROM for learning Serrano.[8] As of 2013, apps and games have been developed, and the San Manuel Band's Serrano Language Revitalization Project (SLRP) seeks to develop further multimedia resources for language learners.[9] In May 2013, Cal State San Bernardino announced it would offer Serrano language classes to its students.[5]

The Limu project offers online courses in Maarrenga' (Morongo Band "Serrano" dialect) and Yuhaviat (Santos Manuel Band "Serrano" dialect).[10]

The Serrano language was traditionally a spoken language; an alphabet was not used until the 1990s. A new alphabet, with 47 letters, including the glottal stop, was developed starting in 2005.[4]

The Endangered Languages Project lists Serrano as in the "Awakening" stage, meaning that the language has lost its native and fluent speakers and can be considered "extinct" but has revitalization projects underway to preserve knowledge of the language and the Serrano people.

University of California, Los Angeles provides a recording of a Serrano speaker reading a word list here.[11]


Serrano is an agglutinative language, where words use suffix complexes for a variety of purposes with several morphemes strung together.

In 1967, the language of Serrano was charted as having 34 consonants and 9 vowels in its phonetic form.[6]

A full grammar of the Serrano language can be found here.[12]


  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Serrano". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. Pritzker, Barry (2000). A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture, and Peoples. Oxford University Press.
  3. Ethnologue report
  4. 1 2 Edwards, Andrew (2006-12-05). "Saving the Serrano tongue". San Bernardino County Sun. Retrieved 2013-05-08.
  5. 1 2 David Olson (2013-05-31). "CAL STATE: University offers Serrano language class". Press-Enterprise. Retrieved 2013-06-05.
  6. 1 2 Hill, Kenneth Cushman. "A Grammar of the Serrano Language". University of California. 2000.
  7. Limu Project iLearn Course Portal
  8. 1 2 David Olson (2011-01-26). "Pauline Murillo, 76, San Manuel tribal elder". - Press-Enterprise. Retrieved 2012-08-10.
  9. "San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians: Education". Retrieved 2013-05-08.
  10. "iLearn Course Portal - iLearn. Serrano Dialects Maarrenga' (Morongo Band "Serrano" dialect); Yuhaviat (Santos Manuel Band "Serrano" dialect)". The Limu Project. Retrieved 2013-05-08.
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